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 Shocked but still interested

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ww



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PostSubject: Shocked but still interested   Fri Jan 07, 2011 7:10 pm

Dear All,

...gosh, I don't even know where to start...

You will forgive me for my rustic approach - I'm not an established student of any tradition, simply a "lay person" in search of the truth, or should I say, of what's real.

Earlier in my life I have been strongly involved with the Catholic Church and especially with Franz Jalics SJ's contemplative practice which admittedly originates (partly/mostly) in zazen.

Regarding most major aspects of my life, I'm at a turning point and it just so happened that I have recently met someone who got me interested in Buddhism. To cut it short, I discovered OBC and felt that this kind of practice might be the way forward.

I started reading, listening to Dharma talks available online; partly through the Shasta Abbey website.

One of the greatest was Jiyu Kennett's lecture entitled Shushogi - it just made so much sense - so I obviously got interested in the person herself.

Then I saw a photo of a morbidly obese woman. To be honest, I was shocked. I'm not a [admin delete]-hater in any way but to someone who is supposed to be a great master of some sort - well, it just didn't add up.

I listened to another talk of hers (can't remember the title, sorry). She sounded like a frustrated secondary maths teacher on the verge of hysteria, going on and on about someone who has left a burning incense unattented, putting everyone at risk of terrible death. It was bullying. Petty, cheap bullying.

I felt very disappointed but many of the Dharma Talks available online gave me much hope that there was a lot of wisdom around so I felt reasonably happy with all I had learned.

Untill I found this very website.

I expected it to be a forum for people practising zazen. All too soon I found out that it is a platform for people who have left OBC.

I have read a lot of posts. Really, an awful lot.
What I gather is that OBC is a dangerous sect founded by a demented woman who caused an immeasurable amount of harm and suffering and who is responsible for tragedies.

To be honest, I'm really gutted.

I find that most I've learnt about Zen is so incredibly (positively) simple and sensible. It really does seem the way forward and my limited experience at meditation suggests the same.

But never in a million years would I be prepared to surrender to a demented [admin delete]'s sick ideas. (I AM sorry but is the image I've gathered so far)

I was planning to sign up for an introductory retreat at Throssel Hole. Having read this forum I pretty much changed my mind.

The problem is: I'm still interested. I do believe that at the core of all this mess there is real truth, real life. I'd love to explore that. In fact I feel it's a matter of life and death. But now I'm truly scared that any involvement with OBC will put me in danger of being sucked up by some sick ideas.

I would very much appreciate any comments.

Thanks a lot

ww


Last edited by Watson on Fri Jan 07, 2011 8:27 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : forum rules violation / name-calling)
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Fri Jan 07, 2011 7:32 pm

Sit still your own treasure house will naturally open
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Fri Jan 07, 2011 7:39 pm

Hello WW, welcome to the forum. I'm sure others will be along shortly to talk about things like balance, and not letting this forum make up your mind for you, and remaining open to the potential for good within the current OBC for that exists too.

One thing I would ask of you straight away is that you please read ALL of the forum rules and be sure you understand them, as they will be strictly enforced. This environment is oriented toward civil speech and we do not allow name-calling. Please edit your first post to remove all references of that kind or a moderator will handle it as he sees fit. If you have read the forum posts extensively, you should be familiar already with community standards for respectful discussion.

Again, welcome, and I hope you find it helpful to be here.

Regards,
Lise
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Henry

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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Fri Jan 07, 2011 7:41 pm

WW
For me, my first years at Shasta it was a place that I could really focus on my meditation. There were odd things that distressed me (amply described on this site) but I felt I was able to focus sufficiently on my practice that I was able to set aside those concerns. I now feel that those concerns were warnings that I would have been better off heeding, but there are rarely do overs in life. One must learn and move on, accepting the consequences of one's choices.

What you do is solely up to you. What Throssel Hole is like 20 years after I left the OBC, I can't say. I have concerns that with all the horror stories recounted here, no one in Throssel or Shasta have the good sense to engage openly with people on this site, in a format and with rules agreeable to them, but that is my opinion. I don't know what you'd find if you went there. I'd be interested in your view if you went. I would suggest, however, if that is what you do, that you judge for yourself the value of what is written here and keep your eyes open.

There are a number of people on this site more familiar with Throssel and you might get more detailed perspectives from them. Hope this helps.
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Howard

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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Fri Jan 07, 2011 8:14 pm

Hello WW
I am pretty sure that many will disagree with this posting and ad their own notes of caution but...

I am beginning to wonder if you could be sucked in by some sick idea connected to the OBC if you've read as much of the OBC connect as you have. We were brainwashed because we wanted to be. Do you want to be brainwashed after reading the accounts of the OBC connect.

My apologies for hi jacking your thread but I am starting to think that this posting is one of the clearest demonstrations of the OBC connects success in dealing with the OBC. I have been very saddened by the OBC"s lack of response to the OBC connect and then I realized (probably much later than everyone else here) that this forum has already handicapped their ability to behave as badly as they have.

All levels of trainees will know when things go off the wall that there is a group of people, who have been exactly where they are now, who understand and state that they are not alone or crazy. I don't think the OBC edicts forbidding any serious trainee of going onto the OBC connect as any thing else but great advertising. The potential threat of complete shunning for anyone expressing any doubt has been largely neutralized compared to the way it used to be because we are here.

I am not one to state that the OBC is not worth exploring. I think everyone on this forum has experienced much at the OBC that they are grateful for.

No one can do your training for you. If you do decide to try the OBC, hold to your meditation above all else to illuminate your path and with what you now know, you may represent a vanguard of real change for the OBC.

Cheers
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ww



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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Fri Jan 07, 2011 8:53 pm

Thanks Howard,

I would say, I'm more than happy to hold on to my meditation above else, BUT - I would really love to have at least an introductory session. (and this is when I start feeling like an outsider, because I AM an outsider; don't know much about the actual practice, simply searching for that "SOMETHING")

(In other words, I don't know how to meditate. I have read this and that but I was hoping to learn it directly from those who do it on a daily basis.)

However, it's rather infuriating that I seem to be making a big mistake if I rely on OBC for guidance and advice (horribile dictu: spiritual leadership)!

I AM a beginner. A poor, silly, idealistic beginner who can't stop weeping about the loss of the great big Zen Buddhist Illusion.

I really DID expect spiritual help. Guidance. The company of people who are cleverer/better/more advanced than me.

It just seems that trusting OBC is dangerous.
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ddolmar

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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Fri Jan 07, 2011 9:24 pm

Hi WW--If you're new to Zen Buddhism, I doubt that you would find an introductory retreat to be anything but an interesting and informative experience. Having read many posts here, you no doubt will have noticed that lay retreats are not where (or when) the harm is alleged to have occurred. In fact--please correct me if I'm wrong, everyone--the power-relationship problems seem to have arisen only after people have become either monks or lay disciples of a master.

I think there is real learning and training to be had at OBC. Certainly you can learn a method to sit zazen and some practical advice about what's important in meditation and what's not.

But as with any place purporting to teach spiritual matters, you should not drop your own good sense or critical thinking skills. If something they say doesn't make sense or doesn't seem very spiritual, it may not make sense or be good spiritual teaching.

RM Jiyu's appearance late in life could seem like the antithesis of ascetism. If you do go to a retreat, you might ask why she let herself get so fat, and what they think it says about her level of enlightenment. That might be a test of some kind for how honest and straightforward the monks are prepared to be with you.

I totally agree with Howard about holding to the meditation, first and foremost.

Finally, I might venture that nowhere will you ever find a perfect guru, and to think that there is one in Zen Buddhism or elsewhere is to set yourself up for disillusionment. You will only ever find your fellow human beings, with all the good and bad that entails. At least that has been my experience.


Last edited by ddolmar on Fri Jan 07, 2011 9:40 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : "Seplling")
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Isan
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Fri Jan 07, 2011 9:34 pm

ww wrote:

However, it's rather infuriating that I seem to be making a big mistake if I rely on OBC for guidance and advice (horribile dictu: spiritual leadership)!

I AM a beginner. A poor, silly, idealistic beginner who can't stop weeping about the loss of the great big Zen Buddhist Illusion.

I really DID expect spiritual help. Guidance. The company of people who are cleverer/better/more advanced than me.

It just seems that trusting OBC is dangerous.

Hello WW and welcome to the forum. The disillusionment you are describing is actually an important part of practice. There are people you can learn from and you may feel some are more advanced, but no one has your answers because they are unique. Practice is all about taking everything you learn and holding it up to your own common sense and conscience to see what passes muster. There's no reason why you can't go to Throssel Hole and practice there. There's also no reason to immediately jump into the deep end of the pool. If you maintain your autonomy and independence you will be able to make choices based on what you feel is right for you. One theme that runs through this forum is many of us gave away our power, and when we began to feel that things were not as they should be we felt unable to change course. This theme has been repeated in a great many spiritual organizations over the years and is not unique to the OBC.

By the way, Jiyu Kennett was a sincere Buddhist monk. She was extraordinary in that she possessed both a great heart and a very difficult personality. She struggled with health issues through the second half of her life, and was an example of the fact that spiritual practice does not guarantee perfect physical health or psychological balance. Of course you did not know her, so when you see an unflattering picture of her late in life it's understandable you're less than impressed, but remember that practice is learning to see past appearances to the heart of the matter.
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mokuan



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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Fri Jan 07, 2011 9:59 pm

Dear WW,

I've lived at Shasta, but I've never been to Throssel, so I can't speak to their practice, though they are disciples of Jiyu Kennett. Have you listened to any of the talks from the monks there? That might help in your decision. Also, I'm sure there will be a few people on this forum who can direct you to other centers in England that may have what you're looking for --Gaia House has always had an appeal to me, but I've never been there.
There are several forms of mediation taught by the different schools and, personally, I have added metta mediation to my practice. Sometimes, it just helps to concentrate on loving kindness when I'm not feeling so kind. As you can imagine, I've had to practice this extensively as of late!!!
One of the things mentioned here on the forum is that when the UK monks are asked about things said on this site, their pat answer is to simply say that we are breaking the Precepts...final answer!
But even though it's standard rhetoric that the Precepts are being broken, no monk has taken the time to pin down exactly which precept or precepts or being broken. I do know that RMJK used to say if you break one, you break them all. Well, we'll see.

The Kyojukaimon by Dogen and commentary by Jiyu Kennett are what the OBC monks read on a daily basis. The following are the Precepts w/o commentary.
The Three Pure Precepts:
Cease from evil,
Do only good,
Do good for others.
The Ten Great Precepts:
Do not kill;
Do not steal;
Do not covet;
Do not say that which is untrue;
Do not sell the wine of delusion;
Do not speak against others;
Do not be proud of yourself and devalue others;
Do not be mean in giving dharma or wealth;
Do not be angry;
Do not defame the Three Treasures (Buddha, Dharma & Sangha);

Personally, I would like the OBC to direct me specifically to the Precepts I'm breaking.
Anger, yes. I have been angry, but I don't think I'm killing, stealing or coveting. I'm not selling the wine of delusion, nor do I think anyone else on this forum is. And speaking against others, that one needs some interpretation.
We are expressing our experiences and perceptions. Being proud of myself? I don't think so. I'm actually a little embarrassed by my rather unintelligent remarks at times.
Defaming the Three Treasures or ceasing from evil, maybe those are the Precepts the monks are referring to.
Well, I would need their working definition of evil, to see if I'm doing that. And Defamation? No, I don't think so. That requires dishonesty and slander. Slander involves false statements.
No monk has pointed out to me or anyone else here, as far as I know, which Precepts are being violated. If they would kindly do so, of course, I'll take it under advisement.

I'm not discouraging you not to go. If you've read the posts here, you'll see what some of us have come up against, which is another side of the story. Go with an open heart, an open mind, and open eyes.
Whatever you do, trust your gut.

best wishes,
mokuan
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Fri Jan 07, 2011 10:51 pm

WW you pose us good problem, in fact I would say for myself a great problem. Of course the only way you can truly judge Throssel is to go there but is it worth the effort? As I'm sure you can tell most of us got alot out of our training, but, and I speak for myself here though I know some others would agree, we lost most of that in the turmoil of our leaving and it took us many years and blood sweat and tears to get it back. Is it worth the risk when it is not necessay? The Interim Board may address the issues raised here, but to be honest I'm not holding my breath. In the mean time till the issues are addressed how could I say what I have and recommend somewhere associated with the teachings practices concerned, and which seems not to have repudiated the worst excesses. So I would, with much sadness, say walk on by. There are many fine places and unfortunately quite a few not so fine ones. Shun false exclusivity, the truth is found everywhere. Visit a number of groups and question and talk to them, but also question and talk to those who have left if you can. Go on the web and look for comments about the group and its leaders. When you find a group that is OK and congenial to you, settle down to the practice but keep an open and questioning mind. As you can see from the posts we wish you the best in your practice and will gladly help out with further advice if you ask.
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Howard

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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Fri Jan 07, 2011 11:42 pm

hello WW
I think your post touched quite a few hearts here.

I also don't see much to worry about at a meditation intro. I have no problems with the nut's & bolts instructions that the OBC gives. The meditation practise in itself is the closest thing to sanity that I know of.

Once you get zazen going, spiritual help & guidance will appear where ever you look. Clever/better/more advanced will pale compared to the arising of truth, freedom and just becoming more awake.

You won't need to trust the OBC anymore than you need to doubt them. Your own meditation will sort most of this stuff out.

You already have an advantage from reading the accounts of the OBC connect which none of us got to do when we were starting. You are just starting out a little less naive than most of us and with less great big Zen Buddhist Illusions to climb over.

Best wishes with your adventure and do return to give us a taste of your discoveries.

Cheers
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Sat Jan 08, 2011 5:59 pm

Hello ww, your post has indeed raised some questions.

When ever the question of RMJK's size was mentioned at Throssel, we were told quite clearly that it was caused by having diabetis which she acquired in Japan by the poor diet during her tough years there. I'm interested that those who trained alongside her have not jumped in and said the same thing. Could it be that that was a convenient, stock answer to what now appears to be more of an inconvenient question?

Is any one able to say more about this?!
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Sat Jan 08, 2011 6:38 pm

Dear Robert, et al.,
She did indeed have diabetes and that disease works to worsen weight problems at the same time that weight problems make the diabetes worse. Unfortunately, she had some very odd ideas about what was cause and effect in regards to her own bodily functions.
I was a jiisha and her personal cook for a few years and it caused some moral dilemmas for me at times. For the most part I was very obedient and passive about giving her what she asked for. When I did speak up about the wisdom of a choice it did not go well. She equated fat and nutrition, perhaps a holdover from the deprivations of the war rationing in Britain. When instructed to keep to a limited diet by her doctor, she would not argue with him directly but simply ate what she pleased. After I moved to Oregon (and while I was still welcome at the Abbey) she told me about the wonders of whole wheat bread, as if I had never heard of it.
One of the difficulties was that she rarely left her chair. Jiishas walked her dogs, kept her house clean, stoked her fire, and changed the TV channel for her. There were days when she didn't leave her house.
On the score of her weight I feel pity for her, as I think it was ignorance and did not harm the rest of us nearly as much as it harmed her. I am less forgiving about the emotional abuse, hatred, fear and confusion.
Sorry ww, to insert this into your introductory thread. It is a subject however that I had to deal with directly on a day-to-day basis, and so I feel I can perhaps shed some light.
in gassho,
Gyokuko
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Sat Jan 08, 2011 7:17 pm

Thank you for that Gyokuko. Your response raises some uncomfortable questions about RMJK's attitude towards food, her jishas and their role and doctors. It also leaves me wondering why Throssel feels it necessary to "cover" for that aspect to her by stating time and again that it's merely the effects of diabetes, thus somehow implying that her training was of such a depth that nothing else mattered and making her seem super-human. Ironically, it was her humanness which inspired me in the first instance, not her super-humanness, which made me start to question more deeply!...
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Sun Jan 09, 2011 12:26 am

I know a number of people with Type 1 diabetes who monitor their diets like hawks. They are not overweight and manage their diabetes well.
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Sun Jan 09, 2011 4:49 am

I know others with Type 2 Diabetes who have great difficulty with it and are fat years after their diagnosis. I think people born with Type 1--I'm thinking specifically of a boy I grew up friends with--get good, low-glycemic nutritional habits drilled into them from a very young age. By contrast, later-onset diabetics (the Type 2's) have the accumulated habits of diet and preferences of a lifetime that they need to turn around if they are to improve their health.
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Sun Jan 09, 2011 9:58 am

It's never as simple as it seems is it? There's room for both allowing RMJK to have both done her best with the knowledge she had at that time - her own experience of wartime shortage and somewhat dodgy nutritional guidance of the era - and for allowing her to be human as well. To struggle with something is not necessarily a bad thing to acknowledge and accept. "If your first step is false, you will immediately stumble." Stumbling is not the problem, we can get up again and again, and must, but it's where you put the next step that matters.

And the questions continue....
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Sun Jan 09, 2011 10:12 am

My problem with this situation is not so much whether Rev. Kennett did the best she did, it is in the disparity of treatment. The way I see it was that her handling of her illness was glorified. As I had no knowledge of diabetes at the time, I took what was said at face value and didn't really question it. Essentially the myth was that through meditation and intuition, Rev. Kennett was able to control her diabetes and lead a productive life. Being ignorant of the disease I thought, well she doesn't get hospitalized, she functions as abess of a monastery, and she's kept herself alive. That seemed like a good accomplishment to me. Since then I've learned more about diabetes and realize that many people do far better than she did in controlling the disease and leading a healthy life. Each person is different and experiences the same disease differently, but to glorify the intuition, depth of meditation, and success in handling a disease, when in fact the handling of the disease compared to those who do it well was poor to mediocre at best, is just another example of placing her on a pedestal. She may have done the best she could given her body's unique reaction to the disease--this I don't want to judge. It is the glorification that I take issue with.

What was worse, was how I was treated very differently (and I think others as well; Sophia's recent post being an example). My handling of my disease was disparaged and held in disdain. My attempts to find medical treatment was looked down upon, as I didn't have faith in meditatioin. I was kicked out of two priories, Shasta, and the OBC because of my illness. (I assume it was my illness because I had never been kicked out of any temple prior to being ill; in fact I was always stongly requested to remain whenever I spoke of leaving) So on the one hand you have Rev. Kennett's seemingly mediocre handling of her illness held up as a miracle of deep meditation, and my desire to seek treatment for my illness held in disdain.

I would be interested to hear from Gyokuko and Mokuan (both Jishas) and others if they remember the accepted view of Rev. Kennett's handling of her illness as being a miracle of her meditation, or was this just my perpective or misremembering.
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Sun Jan 09, 2011 11:33 am

One more thing. Rev. Kennett rarely got out of her chair, so everything, and I mean everything, had to be gotten for her. Again, I have no problem with that, except when in comparison to people being told that they shouldn't help me when I was very ill. (Even though some did, for which I am extremely grateful). Disparity of perception and treatment could be extreme between Rev. Kennett and others.
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Sun Jan 09, 2011 6:52 pm

Robert said: "If your first step is false, you will immediately stumble." Stumbling is not the problem, we can get up again and again, and must, but it's where you put the next step that matters.

Robert, that's pure wisdom...it's where you put the next step that matters. I'm going to remember that, thank you.

***

Henry,
I've got to run, so I can't tell you much at the moment about what I remember of her management or mismanagement of her disease and how food played a role therein, but Gyokuko has spelled it out pretty well.

She wasn't productive, though, in the normal sense of the word. She spent most of her time in her den, in her chair. Her legs were very painful. She would have an idea, call someone in, tell them what it was she wanted and how she wanted it done, and then said "make it so." She had some amazingly gifted monks who were able to accomplish -- well, who built her a monastery.

I do remember one incident, though, involving Nero Woof and food. I'd taken him to the vet, and upon my return, I told her the vet said he was too heavy; he needed to lose weight. She was furious with me. Huh? I just delivered the message. I didn't make the recommendation that Nero Woof lose weight. She yelled about how she would feed him as much as he wanted, and I had no business deciding how much her dog should eat, etc. I know she heard me clearly when I said, "The vet says..." but it didn't matter. What he said was my fault.
Oh, well.

Anyway, gotta dash.
~mokuan
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Mon Jan 10, 2011 9:43 am

ww.

I think a few guidelines might keep you from falling into difficulty at Throessel or other OBC temples, depending on your personality.

If you tend to be gullible, I'd just stay way. What you hear may not be good Buddhism or good Zen. Some of it will be, but some of it is flawed.

Don't seek counsel from any of the monks. Despite profuse promises of confidentiality, there is high probability that what you say will be shared with others. And the advice you are given is very suspect because of the sometimes real world inexperience of many giving it, and the sometimes intent to manipulate you with it. Monk's pronouncements about you are very questionable. Don't be deceived by myths about your karma, special gifts, etc. They don't know. They are making it up out of their own mind -- sometimes to your detriment.

Watch behaviors. If behaviors aren't kind and preceptual, then what they say comes from a position of blindness about their own character and mind. Leave, there's no point in following a blind man through the quagmire of your own mind.

Don' fall for all the titles, honorifics, reverence that will be thrust upon you. At best, they are fellow travelers, very much like you -- some further up the road -- some behind you. Don't forget that. In that context, I'd ignore their teaching and claims about insight, but I'd listen to their experience to see if it was helpful. It is not necessary for someone to be enlightened, have a 11th kensho, or a past life psychosis to help you considerably along the way as a wise Buddhist friend with more experience on the path.

You will likely be discouraged from talking with others or sometimes even reading non-OBC material. Ignore that. Read widely. Investigate other traditions. Discuss what you find with others you respect. The truth is vast, open, and wide. It is not damaged by investigation, doubt, or criticism, though the OBC believes it is. Keep your mind open. Your progress will depend on long term practice -- zazen, mindfulness -- not getting the beliefs about things just right.

If you are a natural follower, be very careful and cautious.

As someone else wrote, you already are better prepared from the standpoint of having a more complete picture of the OBC than most of us were. The information and stories here simply weren't available to most..

If you start having visions, psychoses, etc. don't go to the OBC for help. The track record is extremely poor in terms of helping you deal with your mental difficulty, and in fact can exacerbate it by malformed spiritual diagnosis.

I was fortunate. I had a teacher who was sincere, who demonstrated general integrity, and who was generally helpful for a few years. I will always be grateful for that. But it was important to also to follow my mind/heart when it was no longer helpful.

Eyes open. Ears listening. Mind aware. Heart wise -- grounded in reality.
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Mon Jan 10, 2011 10:48 am

ddolmar wrote:

Hi WW--If you're new to Zen Buddhism, I doubt that you would find an introductory retreat to be anything but an interesting and informative experience. Having read many posts here, you no doubt will have noticed that lay retreats are not where (or when) the harm is alleged to have occurred. In fact--please correct me if I'm wrong, everyone--the power-relationship problems seem to have arisen only after people have become either monks or lay disciples of a master.

Dan, just catching up a bit here -- I wanted to clarify that it isn't only the dysfunction in power relationships that causes problems. Some, like me, never had a master/disciple connection or even thought of becoming a monk. My own experience involved receiving spiritual counseling that I felt was manipulative and inappropriate. Others here have said the same or similar about counseling they received, particularly women who were encouraged to avoid relationships or engagement with the world, which makes little sense for lay people. Enjoying the world was presented to me as delusion, and I will never see it that way.

I've said elsewhere on this forum that I wish I had avoided going along with spiritual counseling. It was offered and I took it, as a new person, without having any idea what it might lead to, and then it became a regular thing that was expected of me, I guess. I should have declined until I could get a better understanding of the warning signs to look for, and how to choose a spiritual counselor. I've read here that OBC monks are not given any training to do counseling, and some should not be, IMO, due their flawed understanding and personal biases against lay life.

That would be my advice to ww --
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Mon Jan 10, 2011 12:24 pm

Henry, Sorry, perhaps I was unclear in that I was suggesting that it may be that RMJK was doing the best she could with the diabetes situation and the information she had available at that time - a suggestion very open to question and somewhat undermined by the post Mokuan has since made... I was not however wishing to imply that RMJK, or anyone else for that matter, has any right to assume superiority and sit in judgement on another's illness. If it's okay for her to be waited on hand and foot, then it should be that way for all who are ill. It's not for another to judge if that illness is real or imagined, after all "imagined" illnesses are symptomatic of something too. There's no harm in having a level playing field for all.
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Henry

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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Mon Jan 10, 2011 1:03 pm

Robert
I didn't think you were making such an implication. Doesn't seem your style.
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Mon Jan 10, 2011 2:23 pm

I think it is not only important to give people the benefit of the doubt that they are doing the best they can through illness, but also to recognize the spirit that shines through bodily suffering. On the one hand we are all human with lots of fallabilities. On the other hand, there are times when something else manifests. As someone else here said, monasteries can be built through the desire to do good (I'm paraphrasing). For me, seeing Rev. Master's desire to do good helped me find that within myself, even in the midst of suffering. Seeing mistakes can teach the lesson of how not to behave oneself: it can also show the trainee that they too, with their own bag of karma, are not necessarily hopeless.
This is not to glorify or even justify mistakes. But I am saying that human-ness has its merits: it helps us 'kill the Buddha' we meet. With any luck there is a recognition by that other person that our own bodily incapacities do not get in the way of our sincerity.
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Mon Jan 10, 2011 4:46 pm

Well said, Sophia. I spend a lot of time (unconsciously?) setting up one Buddha/Messiah/ place to rest after another, and it's hopelessly, maddeningly frustrating to the point that I just GIVE UP! And then, ahhhh there is that quiet, inescapable flow again right where I hadn't left it.

Lise--Howard also pointed out by PM that another exception to my statement has been well described, that of the lay ministers being unnecessarily bossy and self-righteous (my paraphrase). That hasn't been my experience of either the monks or lay ministers, who've always been pretty nice people to me.

Still I maintain that it's likely that a person armed with a healthy skepticism can get a good start in a meditation practice at a Shasta Abbey introductory retreat, and that there's a lot of learning to be had there for one who is unafraid to bring it back down to earth. I suspect the same is true at Throssel Hole. In fact Throssel seems to have had a....calmer? more moderate? smaller trail of bodies in its wake?....history than Shasta, according to the stories at this site.

This site emphasizes a negative view of OBC. There's nothing wrong with that, indeed it seems necessary to get these stories out. But most here are not attempting to present the good parts proportionately, and I think that fact should be emphasized somewhat for the benefit of people who've had no experience with OBC: we're in the business of digging in the dirt.

I don't think that people who've never been to Shasta would come away from OBC Connect with much sense that they could learn anything beneficial there, despite the statements of love-hate ambivalence from many of the former monks/laity who post here.

Sincerely, I wonder whether most of the people here actually regret learning about Zen Buddhism, how to look within, why to look within, how to drop into the present moment, how to not give in to greed, hate, delusion. Because I don't think that's the case but the stories here might suggest it. I think these are very valuable teachings, and ones that I hadn't encountered elsewhere in American society. And the people at OBC are good advocates for these teachings in my opinion, even if most here would not advocate for a deep commitment to the institution (of a kind that I've never had) until it unpacks and sorts out some serious baggage.

Apologies for the rambling and possible self-contradiction. Gotta get back to work. Very Happy


Last edited by ddolmar on Mon Jan 10, 2011 5:20 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : idiocy)
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Mon Jan 10, 2011 4:51 pm

Well said Dan.
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Mon Jan 10, 2011 5:58 pm

Hi Dan,

If my comment to you sounded like bashing, I didn't intend that. I did learn good things from the OBC, and I appreciate that, as mentioned in my own post on this forum back in November of '09, under "OBC Experiences", called "Two things on my mind". I think there were a couple of replies, which gives me faith that I'm not the only one who has read it. I may re-post it as brand-new, just as fyi.

You had asked people to correct your statement if necessary about where the harm was occurring, and my response was to clarify your generalisation, so that people are aware that harm can also happen to non-disciples in an ordinary counseling setting. I hope you see that I wasn't trying to dig up dirt or jump-start the old debate; I was answering a question that you asked directly.

I'm glad that you didn't experience harm from monks, or lay ministers. Speaking only to my experience with spiritual counseling, it could be luck-of-the-draw; I can't say all the monks would have put forth the questionable discussion I received. My point in talking about it is to give people information that may help them avoid problems, if they happen to be assigned a monk who isn't following the teachings, privately, that most seem to espouse publicly. I never heard any monk publicly hold forth that lay life was lesser. Privately, that message came across very clearly. I still think, until the OBC says how their monks are qualified to give counseling, that I can't recommend it to anyone. There's too much risk in my opinion.

I too thought most of the monks I met were nice people, very nice, many of them. That doesn't mean they weren't capable of doing harm, and some were, and possibly still are. That's the message I have for viewers of this forum.

A bit more on Buddhism. I learned some things about the OBC version of Zen, and in going on I've had more exposure to other Zen traditions that are equally as valuable to me from a training and education perspective. And I can't leave out the Tibetan schools, though I've barely scratched the surface there . . . so for me, no, I don't have any regrets about putting a toe on this path and seeing where it leads.

I need to get back to work too Wink
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Mon Jan 10, 2011 8:25 pm

Hi Lise--I read no bashing. I should have been clearer. I only meant for that one paragraph to respond to your post.

The rest was aimed at WW and other folks thinking about visiting an OBC temple/priory for the first time, and to hopefully further the discussion.
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Mon Jan 10, 2011 8:49 pm

ddolmar wrote:
I don't think that people who've never been to Shasta would come away from OBC Connect with much sense that they could learn anything beneficial there, despite the statements of love-hate ambivalence from many of the former monks/laity who post here.

I'm not sure I see much love/hate ambivalence. Some have wounds. Some don't. I surely don't feel hatred, hurt, or love. Indifference -- probably close..

Years after I left, I would recommend the OBC temple close to me as a good starting point for some who seemed interested.. Now, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't. But who knows? I haven't been asked recently. For the right person, I might still recommend it with a few cautioning words. The problem I see with the OBC as a starting point is the beginning of the ceremonial drumbeat to deify Jiyu and the start of the OBC speak which can quickly become a distortion of what I think is good Zen practice.
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Mon Jan 10, 2011 11:34 pm

ww-
I agree wholeheartedly with Jack's advice (go Jack!). The thing is, we are all here fingers pointing at the moon too. The Buddha said "be a lamp unto yourself." I don't see any problem with this site being more on the side of caution instead of promotion of the OBC. I agree with Dan too, that if you just want to check it out, go for a retreat or something, how bad could that possibly be? And Jack was right; if your personality is such that you are desperately seeking a sangha to train with or are tempted to sell off your stuff and become a monk, then caution might be good.

There are some good Buddhist groups out there. You'll find where you belong if that's where your future is. Buddism's easy-peasy as far as I'm concerned-piece of cake; meditate, lead a good life, be a good person. What else is there? Some people like the pomp-and-ceremony stuff and the robes, etc...That's where you have to be careful because the moment you accept as that being Buddhism, you are stuck.

For me, the more I got into it the more dependent I became on the Sangha. A lot of that was my own fault, but a lot of that was because of my conditioning. It's really neither-here-nor-there at this point, but at least I know how I get stuck and what I need to steer clear of. And I defintely stay clear of power-hungry zen masters who have a penchant for dark majic and manipulation.

But we are human, and we need to be social. I really believe that for beginner Buddhists, it's really hard to train without a Sangha because, well, training can be difficult. And it's hard to know who to trust. I feel for you, I really do! I know what that place is like. For me, I wished, and still do to some extent, that I just belonged to a group that wasn't a group really. I used to facilitate a peer-led group and we had all kinds of people come. I liked that the best. We discussed the 4 noble truths and what they meant for us. We got down-and-dirty with it, like scientists proving a hypothesis out in the field, out in the trenches.

I would check every Buddhist group out in your area. Go with your gut. You can do it!

Peace,
Diana
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Tue Jan 11, 2011 3:11 pm

ww,

I'm a British former monk who originally trained at Throssel. I left in 1985, but I still know that I got an awful lot out of my time there and at Shasta. I'm still in occasional contact with one of the British monks, and she's a good person who's helped me with a lot of things...just as a friend. My experiences are very different from most of the people here. That's my experiences of Throssel, and of Shasta, and of Rev Master Jiyu Kennett. And I'm pretty sure I'm not unique. Although of course I can't comment on much that's occurred since 1985.

Go to an introductory retreat, and decide for yourself. Trust yourself, and follow your heart. If it works for you, never mind what anyone else thinks or says. After all, you don't know any of us here. Don't judge by an internet forum; give it a go. After all, what have you got to lose.

Good luck, and all my best wishes,

Jimyo.
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Tue Jan 11, 2011 5:19 pm

Dear All,

thanks ever so much for all your comments and PMs - there's a lot to take in and a lot more to read on this forum.

In all honesty, I find many of your posts very disturbing. It seems to me that some truly EVIL things happenned to some - well, worryingly, way too many - people involved with OBC. I'm not trying to be the clever one here but I sense something that is way beyond individual people's (leader's) fallability. I'd like to talk a bit more about it, perhaps later; I do need to process all that has been said here.

It's fair to say that I'm put off OBC, big time. I have no doubt that there are wonderful people among them but hands on heart, I feel very uncomfortable about getting involved.

I agree that an introductory retreat wouldn't harm me but knowing what I know (and what I cannot NOT know any more) I see little chance of being able to be innocently open and receptive.

I would like to reply to some of your posts and of course the PMs later - I have a lot to say - but for now I'm just trying to digest all I have learnt and calm myself down.

Thanks again and the very best to All of You.

WW
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Sat Jan 29, 2011 9:47 pm

Sadly I wouldn't recommend the OBC to anyone. I got so much bad advice from the prior I became close to, that I think it caused more harm than good.
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Fri Feb 04, 2011 5:47 pm

Henry wrote:
I would be interested to hear from Gyokuko and Mokuan (both Jishas) and others if they remember the accepted view of Rev. Kennett's handling of her illness as being a miracle of her meditation, or was this just my perpective or misremembering.
Henry/Kaizan (with apologies to ww for hijacking this thread),
In my early days at the Abbey, if any mention was made of Roshi's weight, it was stated that it was the result of the terrible diet she had to endure in Japan. Later I heard mention of her surgery in Japan, that she had been (borderline?) diabetic but that was all over now. I don't remember it being openly acknowledged at any time that she was diabetic until after my time in the jiisharyo. The health issues I heard more about were heart problems and insomnia. The heart issue was referred to as having been cured through meditation, jinshindo, and kensho. The insomnia never went away. It has been many years, my memory is not super clear on these things.
Sorry for all you went through, Kaizan.
Gyokuko
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Henry

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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Sat Feb 05, 2011 11:04 am

Hi Gyokuko,
Thanks for trying to remember from those many years back, and thanks for your concern about what happened to me. At this point in time, the reason I write about what happened to me is to make a connection to what is occuring more recently and at present. Many who have written on this site, not having known Rev. Kennett, assume that the crazy, authoritarian, insensitive, and discounting of the viewpoint of those not in the hierarchy is something that stems from Eko's abbacy. I brought up my own experiences to help make the connection that what Amalia, Laura, Polly, Diana and others experienced has a longer history than they might suspect. The blind spots and dysfunctional ways of doing some things that caused me harm, seems to be continuing at Shasta and the OBC. That is why I participate on this site.

I am very glad to hear through Kyogen's recent posts that your center is thriving. I'm curious to know if you have many younger members. It has been reported here that Shasta can't attract people younger than their 60s and 50s at best, which does not bode well for their future. It doesn't surprise me that they lack the vibrancy to attract younger people. From what I've read here, and from what I've heard of Meian's lectures, and the response that has been generated from the interim board and made public reveals an organization that feels stuck and immobile to me. I hope they can pull themselves out of this, but you know the old horse and water business.

I wish you and Kyogen and the Dharma Rain Center continued prosperity.
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Sat Feb 05, 2011 3:04 pm

Dear WW,

I am interested in how many people have said:" Go to an OBC retreat, it can't hurt, just listen to your gut."

I would say that this is fairly solid advice as long as you are a very stable personality with a good grounding in religious practices, esp. Buddhism, and are unlikely to be manipulated or overawed by those who are in a position of authority or superiority.

On my first visit I was told "This may be the only chance you get for many lifetimes to connect with Buddhism and OBC." The implication I heard in that was that to turn away from OBC training would be missing a huge and invaluable opportunity, rejecting a spiritually ordained offering. Later teaching regarding this supported that interpretation.

I didn't know how to listen to my gut. I automatically gave authority to the status of "Zen Master". I do not think that the monk who told me these things was anything other than sincere, and I learned many worthwhile things (that are not the sole provenance of OBC.) But in the end, the experience I had was spiritually and emotionally disastrous.

So how well do you know yourself? If you want to get into a boat that leaks now and then, you'd best be a good swimmer.

Best wishes.
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PostSubject: 30 somethings   Sat Feb 05, 2011 4:05 pm

I'm curious to know if you have many younger members. It has been reported here that Shasta can't attract people younger than their 60s and 50s at best, which does not bode well for their future. It doesn't surprise me that they lack the vibrancy to attract younger people.

I was told on more than one occasion that "it" (implying the Abbey and meditation) was "hard work," "for spiritual adults." And that most people try it but give up. I think this is a convenient way of ignoring the fact that the Abbey's heavy religious feeling and tone drives most young people away.
Case in point. A few years ago I brought three friends -- all in their 30's to an introductory retreat. On the second day they participated in a ceremony that lasted hours where they did at least 50 full bows while singing "we bless him."
Two of them left early the next day. The Abbey reminded them all too much of a dogmatic catholic church.
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Kyogen

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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Sat Feb 05, 2011 4:13 pm

Hello Kaizan,

In response to health issues and Shasta, in my view "illness" was an important part of Jiyu Kennett's self image. The whole time I knew her she was either "seriously ill" or "miraculously recovered," then back to "seriously ill." There was only room for one ill person at Shasta, and that was Jiyu Kennett. She would sympathize with someone who was ill in a way that would, perhaps, validate the spiritual authenticity of her own illnesses, but not much more than that. I think that because most of her own illness was self generated she doubted anyone else’s experience. I had migraines at Shasta that kept getting worse while I was her Jisha. She would frequently accuse me using them as an excuse to get out of my obligations, which she took personally. Very frustrating. In fact, the schedule I had to keep as her attendant did contribute to the migraines, and once I moved to Portland and could regulate my diet and sleeping schedule, they decreased dramatically. She took that personally too. Seems that in her mind I just wanted to get away from her. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

We do have younger people here. It’s not like it was in the 60s and 70s, however, with young people flocking to spiritual communities. On the very young end, we have over 90 kids, from pre-school through high school age coming to our youth programs. Their parents are involved, so you can get an idea of demographics. We have several residents in their 20s, and a bunch in their 30s. We are still weighted towards boomers, but it is normal for religious organizations to be populated mostly by people over 40. The 60s and 70s were an aberration.

With palms joined,

Kyogen
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Sat Feb 05, 2011 10:28 pm

Kyogen, I'm glad to see you here again. You've been missed.

June, I had an experience similar to yours. I brought a friend to the Abbey, this was several years ago when we were both around 30 or so. She wasn't prepared for all the rituals and ceremony, the displays of hierarchy among monks, that sort of thing. She stayed for the entire weekend, out of politeness, she told me later. I think the worship-y aspect of some OBC practices hits a number of people the wrong way. I began to feel this myself. I remember staring at that red carpet whilst doing the full bows, thinking, "this isn't me. Why am I doing this?"
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June99



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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Sun Feb 06, 2011 1:27 am

I would also add that there are Buddhist meditation groups that attract a large number of very sincere people in their 20's and 30's. I've attended one called "Against the Stream" that has centers in NY and LA.
Meanwhile, 50 full bows of "we bless him" at an introductory retreat is just not a good way to engage a secular oriented generation.
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Wed Mar 16, 2011 12:01 pm

Dear WW,
I am new to the forum but would like to have my twopennyworth about starting to practise zazen. I would like to encourage you and,despite all the horrendous stuff you may have read about happenings at Shasta etc. do not be tempted to "throw the baby out with the bathwater".
I think that a good place to start would be to get some instruction at a local group run by a lay minister. When you feel that you have been able to become a bit establshed in your zazen that is the time to think about attending a short introductory retreat at a priory or larger institution. This way you won't get "indigestion" at having to cope with too much too quickly.
If you find a teacher that you can trust after using your own intelligence to test what they say and,more importantly,what they do and what others say about them,then go for it.!
The rewards can be inestimable..You may find lots of personal problems along the way, as I did, but hopefully you will be able to work through them,as I am gradually doing. To be at peace with yourself and this wonderful world is a goal worth working for..with very best regards, Lesley
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PostSubject: Re: Shocked but still interested   Thu Mar 17, 2011 12:43 am

Kyogen --

I found your insight interesting about how there could only be one person at Shasta who was ill and that was Kennett. It was a strange aspect of her shadow. She had to be the center of all attention and she really didn't want anyone else to get any "special" attention. She was the special one -- 100%. That's also why i think she so resented married couples - since they would focus on each other or their kids and not totally on her.

I had one serious health issue at Shasta i think it was 73 or 74. One morning after zazen, i suddenly developed a splitting headache (very unusual), my vision became distorted, and one side of my body went numb. I forget which monk drove me to the local doctor who insisted I be taken to a hospital immediately. They thought i might be having a stroke or developing meningitis or something like that. So we jumped in the car and drove down to a hospital in Redding.

My brain was swelling and I couldn't even think or speak by the time we got to the hospital. I was not in good shape. I had a fever, was convulsing. I was admitted and a neurologist came to see me.

Kennett's told the monk who took me to the hospital to essentially stay as short a time as possible, just drop me off and come back immediately, He was not to stay with me or help me, just let me fend for myself. He was told - there was work to be done at the Abbey, so come back.

I ended up staying in the hospital a few nights. Tests. EEG. Spinal tap. Blood tests. (this was before MRI's and brain scans.) The doctors decided I had encephalitis that i contracted from a mosquito bite. It took me months to fully recover. (As it turns out, the diagnosis was wrong. It was a serious odd initiiaal migraine attack that would sometimes later reoccur.)

But the odd thing to me -- as I remember it -- was how callous and uncaring Kennett was. Any reasonable response would have been to have someone stay with me, take care of what was needed, Nothing special - just be there to help. Basic kindness. Isn't that what would you do for a friend or sangha member?

I think you nailed this about Kennett. If you got sick at Shasta, she imagined that you were deliberately seeking attention - which was unacceptable. So she became dismissive and even cruel. You were blamed. Also, this can be seen as an aspect of her Enneagram 8 psychopathology -- denial of all weakness.

There have been other postings on this website about how badly people were treated when they became ill or needed assistance -- not only by Kennett herself, but also by other "masters" - so you see how they copy what Kennett does. This is part of the transmission that she passed down - and her students decide that all her behavior is Zen when in reality, much of how she related to her devotees were just expressions of her unrecognized shadows.

I remember a story from the time of the Buddha. A monk became sick and his fellow monks were not taking care for him properly. I think they felt it was a burden or a distraction from their dharma practice. The Buddha heard about it, went to find the sick monk, personally bathed him, and then fed him and cared for him. Seems like the human thing to do.
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